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2014 Fall Tour to Galena

by Larry Palguta


DAY 1
Thursday September 25th started out as a somewhat cloudy, cool day that was to turn sunny later in the afternoon. Six cars of Brits began showing up at Jennie Rae’s Restaurant north of La Porte, IN around 8 AM CST for our breakfast reservation, and subsequent departure about 9 AM. Something went amiss at this usually reliable eatery – they did not have enough wait staff because two other unannounced groups showed up. At least one of the groups was waited on and served before our group which had a reservation!! When our seventh car showed up at 9 AM (the Betz’s), we had not received our food orders, which then began to arrive shortly after 9 AM. Thus, we did not get on the road until 9:40 AM, disappointing given the long drive we faced. Next time we’ll try the interesting restaurant across the road – Junction City. Fortunately, this was about the only disappointment of the Tour.

Cars ready to go
Getting ready to roll outside Jennie Rae’s Restaurant

We headed out led by Randy & Bev Glanders in their Spitfire. The caravan then consisted of Bob & Mary Petersen, Larry & Deb Palguta, Jim & Kim Betz (all in MGBs), Tom & Debbie Shumaker (TR-7), Roger & Ruth Deacon (Mini Cooper), and Keith & Mary Wishmeier (Spitfire).
For posterity’s sake and a friend who thinks his car club would enjoy this trip, I’ll list the routes we took – there were many and they were well-chosen by our Fall Tour leaders Keith Wishmeier and Randy Glanders. We headed west on US 20 to Fail Road, down to SR 2 through the middle of La Porte and westward. Our route was SR 2 to IN 421 southbound, to SR 10 west just below Demotte, IN. As usual, we took bio/gasoline breaks as needed. Before leaving Indiana, the CB chatter increased west of Roselawn, IN as we neared the Ponderosa Sun Club. Maybe because it was still cool outside (great for riding in LBC’s whose engines liked the temperature), no nudists were seen – just a very large sign at the entrance to the camp. Maybe this was the second disappointment of the trip.
IN SR 10 became IL SR 114 at the border, as we headed toward Momence. Nothing momentous about Momence, as we connected with SR 17 to Kankakee, then SR 113 to Braidwood, south on IL 47 to SR 41 for a nice drive along La Salle Lake and along SRs 55 and 71 next to the Illinois River, with a winding scenic short climb to La Salle and Oglesby. At 2:30 PM, we turned off to go south to Oglesby because our stomachs were growling. Shortly after the turn, we lucked out and found a local Root Beer drive in. We decided quickly that a break from the cars and inside dining was in order – a good decision because the waitress was great, the food arrived quickly, and the home made root beer was delicious! This seemed to balance out the slow service and late start at breakfast.
By now the sky had cleared and the sun was shining brightly on a comfortably warm day. During the afternoon our only LBC issue arose – the Petersen’s MGB wouldn’t start up unless it was pushed and the clutch popped. I suggested it might be a disconnected wire on the starter motor – we found one, connected it, and the problem persisted. So Bob did the wise thing – he always parked on a slope so the car could roll until he popped the clutch.
From Oglesby, we took SR 251 north to US 52 to Dixon, IL. We stopped late afternoon for a short visit to one of Ronald Reagan’s boyhood homes in Dixon. A nice white frame home where the family lived for only 3 years.


President Ronald Regan's home
President Ronald Reagan boyhood home for 3 years in Dixon, IL


Lots of photos were taken, but to me the most impressive artifact is behind the house – a Tulip Poplar tree planted in 1991, that is a direct off shoot of a tree planted in 1785 at Mount Vernon by George Washington – now that’s longevity! From Dixon, we continued up US52/SR26 to US52/SR 64 and on to Savanna at the Mississippi River. Then north on SR 84 to Galena, IL where we picked up US20 into Dubuque, IA. We finally arrived at the Best Western Plus Hotel on the west side of Dubuque at 7:20 PM – a long day of driving finally completed. Dubuque is only about 11 miles from Galena, connected by a good divided four lane road, and the hotels are half the cost of hotels in Galena. After a long day of driving, the group chose to dine in at the hotel’s Champp’s Restaurant. They gave us a back room, shared with a girl’s high school volleyball team. Good service, good food, and relaxing libations, while we visited and planned out the next day’s activities.

DAY 2
Galena is a top weekend tourist site in the Fall (sometimes a special train will bring tourists from Chicago), so Keith and Randy planned for our visit to be on Friday and then visit sites and do activities outside of Galena on Saturday.
Around 8 AM Friday, we met for a complementary buffet breakfast in the hotel dining room and made our plans. We did not depart until 9:15 because most of the shops do not open until 10 AM. Again the Petersen’s MGB needed a push start, so they headed off to O’Reilly’s for some diagnostic work, while the rest of us caravanned down US 20 to Galena. Once in Galena, we found free parking along the levy on the east side of the downtown area. We decided to meander through the town and meet at 2:30 PM to figure out further activities including a visit to U.S. Grant’s home in East Galena.
Galena became a very prosperous Mississippi River port in the early 1800’s. In the mid-1800’s, a huge fire burned down most of the town which comprised primarily wooden structures. Undaunted, the town leaders decided to rebuild, but this time only brick and stone structures would be permitted.

Downtown Galena
Downtown old Galena, IL


Galena's oldest building
Galena’s oldest building from 1826


Of course, U.S. Grant was tending a general store owned by his father when the Civil War started, and he immediately received a commission in the U.S. Army as a result of his prior service (including the 1847 Mexican War) subsequent to attending West Point. By the late 1800’s, the town’s prosperity waned and the downtown eventually became a lot of empty buildings in the first half of the twentieth century. In the 1970’s, the historic hotel was about to be demolished when the mayor, a true visionary, managed to get the downtown and surrounding areas designated a Federal historic site. Today the town is numerous blocks of mid-to-late 1800’s buildings that are now shops with knic-knacs, clothing apparel, restaurants, novelties, wine, food, etc., etc. – a virtual shopping and sight-seeing paradise for those so inclined.


More of Galena's downtown
More of Galena’s downtown


Everyone was on their own for visiting the shops and finding lunch. There is no shortage of restaurants of a wide variety. Around 2:30 PM, we met at the LBC’s and decided that we would take the trolley tour of Galena and East Galena. The Deacons headed out on their own, having already taken the trolley tour. The Petersen’s had arrived downtown much earlier – the electrical problem being a four year old battery that failed and was replaced. The Petersens have had the only car with mechanical/electrical problems during the last two Fall Tours, so they have paid their dues and can expect easy cruising for years to come.
The trolley tour was worth every penny of the ticket cost – we saw the downtown area, the western heights above the downtown area, East Galena, and the outside of Grant’s home, all accompanied by an excellent narrative by the driver.
Unloading from the trolley at 4:15 PM, we zipped across the river to Grant’s home and arrived at 4:35 PM before the closing at 5 PM. The Grant home tour is free – we learned about Grant’s family, their usage of the home given to them by civic leaders, and viewed the nearly all original furnishings. Most of the paintings are copies except for an original of Grant and Lee at Appomattox Court House.

US Grant house
U.S. Grant house in East Galena, IL

US Grant living room
Living Room of U.S. Grant home

US Grant dining room
Dining Room of U.S. Grant home


Talking with docent
Debbie Shumaker and Keith Wishmeier talk kitchen with docent


It now being early evening, we decided to go to the Bridge Restaurant/Tavern for dinner in Dubuque. This restaurant is just north off of US 20 on the west side of the bridge over the Mississippi River (hence the name!).
On Friday nights they have good fried fish entrees and other entrees that are popular. Its not a fancy restaurant, frequented primarily by the locals, but offers good food, good prices and a very relaxing environment. And relax we did; lots of laughter and socializing by our group of 14. When leaving, we got a good chuckle from the neon window sign in the photo below. We got back to the hotel by 8 PM to relax after a day of sight-seeing.

Breakfast
The place to be for Sunday Breakfast !!!


Day 3
Around 8 AM, everyone again filtered into the dining room for our hotel’s complementary breakfast buffet. After much discussion and eating, we met at the back of the hotel for departure at ~ 9 AM, there being no such thing as an exact, on-time departure during our Fall Tour drives. We headed west on US 20 to Iowa to see the Field of Dreams baseball field and homestead near Dyersville, IA. We made good time on the highway but then turned off as Garmin directed us to the direct route. Well, the direct route turned out to be about 4 miles of dusty gravel roads. As soon as you get off the main roads in Iowa, you almost always hit gravel roads. It was slow driving as the seven LBC’s kicked up clouds of dust that settled on the cars and occupants. When we got to the driveway of the Field of Dreams location, we noticed that our road on the other side of the driveway was paved (as it is out to the main highway). Lesson learned again – GPS may not always be the way you want to travel.
The Field of Dreams movie site is just as it was in the movie (except for the power line near the ball diamond which was probably dropped during filming).


Field of Dreams house
Field of Dreams farm house near Dyersville, IA


The empty white frame house is in fine shape, the field readily accessible for pitching, catching, base running, and for photos in the outfield as people emerge from the rows of corn. The Brits did all of these activities while snapping lots of photos.


Field of Dreams
Field of Dreams minus Kevin Costner


Field of Dreams
Keith, Randy, Tom, Bob, Larry & Jim – less than a full team, as usual!


We then headed north on SR 136 to Millville, then onto a local road to and through Turkey River. The drive was scenic as the terrain near the river is anything but flat. We turned off on a local dirt road toward the docking point for the Cassville, WI ferry.

We stopped the LBC’s only about 70 yards from the Mississippi River, and walked down to the river bank. Nearby a portable, hand pushable “cart” with two solar panels, had a sign that said “push to hail ferry”. The button was pushed and we began waiting for a ferry to appear.

self-service ferry
Cassville, WI self-service ferry!


self-service ferry
Cassville ferry arriving shore-side at Iowa


At the river’s edge were two long metal bars buried in the shore line, which obviously provided some sort of docking point for the ferry. After about 15-20 minutes, we saw the ferry headed toward us from the downstream, other side of the river. Shortly it chugged in, dropped a ramp over the two metal bars, and unloaded a few vehicles and passengers. The crew of the ferry guided all of us onboard along with about a dozen or more motorcycles that showed up behind us.


riding the ferry
Debbie Shumaker and Deb Palguta prepare for the trip across the Mississippi River to Cassville, WI


Fees were collected ($15/car; $8 motorcycle) as the motor driven cabin pushed the flatbed cargo barge away from the shoreline. Then the cabin, attached by a large pivot point to the side of the barge, uncoupled its stern from the barge, and did a 180 degree pivot until its stern re-attached itself to a large hook at the opposite end of the barge. Ingenious!!! The ferry is a short 13 minute traverse across the Mississippi River to Cassville, WI; relaxing, scenic, sunny and lots of fun.


riding the ferry
Brits relax during short river crossing to Cassville, WI


Shortly the ferry docked at Cassville and our LBC’s rolled off and through town. We headed out on another very scenic drive to Potosi, WI, site of a winery and the Potosi Brewery. The Brewery has a good size restaurant inside and lots of outdoor seating. Upon arrival, we opted for indoor seating where we would be in the shade and A/C. But it was very busy so we split our table watch into inside and outside. The hostess did a less than good job of getting us seated in the time promised, so the part of our party that was watching for seats outside got their seats and more for the rest of our party. The patio turned out to be a good place to rest, enjoy a Potosi beer or two, and have a quick lunch before hitting the road for our next venue. And hit the road we did, as we buzzed south to Dubuque.

The club headed to the downtown area and the Port of Dubuque, at the west side of the river. After entering the wrong building, we walked a bit further south to the ticket house for a paddle wheel boat tour of the Mississippi River. We all clambered aboard and found a table with seats for all of us to relax while waiting for the boat to sail. Of course, there was the necessary snack bar which served snacks, treats and libations.
Soon we set sail, actually set paddling, off on an hour and one half historic tour of the area and river. The paddle wheeler went up river for about 40 minutes, turned and then headed south for about 40 minutes before turning again and heading to the docks. After a busy day of driving, it was relaxing to just see the shorelines pass by, listen to the narrative over the PA system, have a drink, and snack, and popcorn, and drink, and etc., and listen to more narrative. It became apparent that the Captain was reading the narrative, as a couple of club members demonstrated during pauses when they said “and now turn the page” in perfect unison with the narrative. Nevertheless, it was a nice and informative cruise near the end of a very busy day.

riding a paddle-wheeler
Chillin’ out on the paddle wheeler

Busy day – the Brits don’t know the meaning of busy. A couple of the ladies set up dinner reservations at Vinny Vanucchi’s in Dubuque (Kim Betz showed us how to use the “Open Table” app on her cell phone to score quickly two reservations for the 14 of us), and then we decided to head back to the hotel for a little R&R before dinner. However, the Glanders and Wishmeiers headed off to the funicular to get a ride up a hillside. Unfortunately, they found out the funicular was closed for repairs.
The R&R at the hotel was much appreciated by everyone so we could recharge our batteries for an evening meal in Dubuque. Some snoozed, while some watched football, visited, and relaxed.


At the appointed hour, all 14 travelers showed up in the parking lot, and caravanned downtown to Vinny Vanucchi’s. Saturday night in Dubuque is a busy time with lots of people out on the sidewalks, at restaurants, bars etc. The restaurant is not easy to spot from the street (it didn’t seem to have a large sign) but we found it, found some parking, and headed into the restaurant where we were seated in two groups in different rooms. Vanucchi’s is a very large restaurant in an old brick building, with pressed metal high ceilings, lots of wood, and a great atmosphere. Of course the menu is loaded with Italian specialties, particularly lots of family dishes that you do not see in other Italian restaurants, particularly chain restaurants. The food was great, wine very good, company excellent, and the laughter plentiful. This is a great restaurant to finish off a busy day of sightseeing in the tri-state area.

Day 4
We met at 7 AM for another buffet breakfast, and sometime after 8 AM headed out on our journey home. We stayed on the Iowa side of the river, taking the scenic route US 52 along the river and crossing over into Illinois at Savanna, IL. We followed much the same route home, this time stopping in Peru, IL for lunch at an Arby’s. As we got into northwest Indiana, LBC’s peeled off to their respective destinations. Deb and I were home by 6:30 PM.
This Fall Tour was high-lighted not only by a great destination and good driving roads, but spectacular weather throughout the Tour. Apparently the Brits have a habit of selecting the best times for the Fall Tour- we’ve had a long continuous string of good to spectacular weather during the drives. We are already looking forward to the 2015 Fall Tour – where ever its destination may be.

 

 

 
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